Sunday, 27 May 2012

How to get started blogging

It probably won't surprise you that I'm a huge fan of blogging. It can be a great tool to share knowledge, opinions and feelings and if you're blogging about work or an area of expertise, it can set you apart in your chosen career. It gives future employers or colleagues a place to go to get to know what you think about things. Even if no-one ever reads it, it can give you a space to clarify your thoughts and the opportunity to think things through.
I've been blogging since 2009 and there's a few tips I've picked up along the way:

  • Think about why you want to blog. Is it to share best practice? It is to learn more about yourself? Is it to try and get you a (better) job? It might be loads of reasons but it does help to keep those in your mind. 
  • Don't agonise over your URL - for most people I'd recommend using a URL with their name in it because then it will be relevant no matter what the blog morphs into, but really the URL doesn't matter. Most people who read your blog will come to it from links you've shared, links on other people's blogs or searches. Very few people will actually type the URL into the browser. You also don't necessarily have to buy a domain as whichever blogging platform you decide to use will give you one for me. I've muddled along with a free one just fine even if it is a little on the long side. You can always export it later if you have a change of heart.
  • Don't spend hours fiddling about with the design. It needs to be clear to read first and foremost: content is king. If it can look great too with a custom-designed template then go ahead but I'd say that most visitors will ignore the design and focus on what you've posted instead. (Having said that, I love the thoughtful, creative and clean designs of Comms2Point0 and Supercool.)
  • Don't worry about which blogging platform to use. There are tonnes out there but probably the best known are blogger and wordpress. Blogger (the one I use and owned by Google) used to be a bit crap and rarely had updates but it has got better of late. I've done a screenshot of the dashboard above. You can see it looks very similar to word so it's dead easy to use.
  • Spend time thinking about what you want to share. The way my brain works best is this: I set it a problem and then I leave it to simmer, then when inspiration comes I scribble it down. For me this works best when I'm trying to think of ideas for new blog posts. If I was to sit down and think ok, now I must develop some content, I would have a total blank. Better to watch TV, read some news or have a shower and let the neural pathways do the hard work for you. As a journalist, I had to keep a daily news list or schedule - it's a good idea to keep a running list of blog posts you want to write. (I have to confess though, that although I do this I rarely refer back to it, preferring to write as and when the urge strikes me.)
  • Think about how often you're going to post. Generally, the more prolific people are the more traffic they'll get. Two or three posts a week (or even a day) would be fantastic but is that realistic for you? I tend to post two to three times a month. When work is busy, I'm less frequent because there are only so many hours in the day. Don't beat yourself up if you haven't posted for a while.
  • Strictly speaking a blog is the thing you post on, a post is the content. (In press terms, a blog is the newspaper, a post is the article.) Some people are pedantic about this and disparage those who say something like 'here's a new blog I've written'. My advice is ignore the pedants. 
  • Read other people's blogs and be generous with links from your blog to their's. Most blogging platforms have a plug in or section in the template that allows you to have a blog roll or blog list on your site. It's basically just a list of blog links.
  • Time when you post. If you want as many people as possible to read it, post early in the day (but not so early that everyone is asleep).
  • Allow comments. Blogging isn't a one way broadcast. It's about sharing your thoughts and then listening to what people say back. There's nothing more annoying than carefully crafting a comment on someone's post, pressing submit and then having to wait hours for it to be moderated. I rarely get spam comments but if I do I just delete them.
  • Respond to comments. If people have taken the time to read your post and make a comment, even if you don't agree, it's respectful to show them you've read it and reply.
  • Be diligent about labelling and tagging. In a few years when you're trying to find something you once wrote you'll be glad.
  • Post in haste, repent at leisure. As with all social media, think before you post. 
  • Join twitter - it's the best way to share links to your blog. 
  • Enjoy it. Blogging should be pleasurable - a great way to get your feelings out there and hear what other people think back. Good luck!
What are your tips for starting blogging?

2 comments:

  1. Great post with top tips and even the ones I know already its good to get a reminder. Agree the blog is your newspaper and the posts are your articles always good to be reminded. Firstly I am not a blogger, I do however describe myself as an occasional blogger but not sure how much that rings true. Film blogging over at http://pip.posterous.com/ and general stuff here: http://dillondeliberating.posterous.com/ However like some I have not update these for sometime but that does not mean I have not been active because I have, over at Google Plus but I guest that rules me out of being a blogger? Mike Elgan has taken a radical approach with his Google Plus Diet, its not for me but he gets you thinking like here when he asks 'have you moved your blog over to Google Plus: http://bit.ly/JEwgPI

    Take this post http://bit.ly/JEwxSS would have normally ended up on my Posterous space but I posted instead to Google Plus. The hardest thing about blogging is getting engagement beyond the mutual support club and on Plus I get engagement. My posts are readily available in Google Search and I can tweet them out (albeit rather clumsily). Yes, Plus is not a blogging platform and it drives me nuts that it still retains / * for bold and italics nor can you insert links. I think Google does not want to encourage Plus to much as a blog space less it affects Blogger which itself will incrementally draw closer to Google Plus. However Do Share a Chrome extension that allows you to schedule posts to Plus can be used as a rudimentary blog tool. So no its not ideal but I do not really want to become someone who has a Wordpress Shrine who when they post a blog its an event. I was attracted to Posterous because I felt it did not take blogging to seriously you had an idea, viewpoint and you got it out to market. For me, Google Plus is my new Posterous.

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  2. Thank you for this comment Shane. I have to confess I'm signed up on Google Plus but I never go on it! Your comments have inspired me to have another look - thank you :)

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